|Hard at Work|
I'm five days in. It feels like I've been in that oversize cannonball that carries people leagues under the sea to the wreck of the Titanic or in that suit Ed Harris et all wear in The Abyss. Just slowly descending into the very deep, very dark, very cold water and some fresh-faced kid on the surface is talking in a little microphone in my ear, reporting my depth: "1,000 feet. 1,100 feet. 1,200 feet... Sir... Sir you're going too deep. You're going too deep! Sir!" (I don't know why he's calling me sir but that's just how I hear it.) And finally I just switch off communication with the surface and the kid rips the headphones off and throws them across the control room.
I'm not at the bottom yet. Obviously. Like I said, it's been five days and two of those days I spent getting settled in, buying groceries or wandering around town, marveling at the prices of vintage dresses in the thrift shops. I made some limeaid and I was feasted upon by approximately 1,000,000 mosquitos. I saw a biker buying hamburger buns and he looked like an extra from Sons of Anarchy, with huge blonde mutton chops and an eyepatch (a fucking eyepatch!!!), except he was wearing a SoA shirt so I didn't know what to think. And eventually I migrated in front of my computer or a spiral notebook, and I started fooling around with some words and some ideas that I've been kicking around for a few years now, and then I started to sink down into it. Into the creativity. Into the solitude writing requires. Into the weirdness.
I've never had an opportunity like this before. I have never had this much freedom to write. In college I had other classes and reading to consider, friends and parties and movies and finals (I wonder how much higher my GPA would have been if the Special Edition Lord of the Rings box sets hadn't come out right before finals every winter). After I graduated I had to start worrying about making money (which does not relate to writing, because we all know you can't make money as a writer) while simultaneously trying to gain trajectory in an industry that was on the verge of collapse. My parents were augmenting my sad paychecks at this time, so I was fortunate enough to stay out of serious financial trouble, but I still had two jobs that required my energy and my presence and sometimes my creativity, plus a social life that required a lot of drinking. Then I stopped drinking and I had to learn how to cope with life. And because I studied creative writing in college instead of computer sciences, I haven't made a small fortune that would allow me to focus on writing full-time. I did have a bike accident three years ago that, with the generous help of my lawyer aunt, provided enough scratch for me to take this month-long leave of absence from work and do this residency.
What I am saying is I have never in my life had a period of time in which all I was asked to do was write. Just write. Write whatever I want. Write early in the morning. Write into the night. Write in my PJs. Write naked. Write a novel or an essay or a script. That is the single expectation for the next 25 days. I don't even have to take care of my dog. Just get inside my brain and finally muscle out all the projects that have been incubating over the years. It's an incredible gift and it's incredibly intimidating, but I am determine to make the most of it. I am going to take the work ethic I have applied to my other jobs over the last 8 years and unleash it on my writing.
But here's the thing:
Writing means being alone. With my thoughts. Which is great but also making me a little kooky. In the last three days I would estimate I've spent 2-3 hours conversing with other humans. That includes phone calls, people at the grocery store, and the two other people here. That's the other thing. I was expecting to spend a lot of time alone, but maybe... not quite so much? The two other Artists in Residence both canceled at the last minute due to family or medical emergencies. So while I'm not entirely alone, I am the only AIR on the premises. It doesn't matter all that much since, as I said, writing is a solitary activity, but it means there are fewer opportunities to interact people. Last night I had dinner with Monica, the executive director here, and she also showed me how to cut and shape glass, which was really fun. Monica is an extremely intelligent and articulate woman. And while I think she spends a lot of time alone as well, working on applications and such, it doesn't seem to have dulled her wits in the slightest. I, on the other hand, feel like a cave person. "Durr," I say. "Durr, that's awesome." Not exactly holding up my end of the conversation.
Plus, spending all day in my apartment,alone, forgetting to open the blinds or turn on the lights, staring into the glow of my laptop, exploring my most difficult memories and that time I thought about murdering someone... I've been feeling a little Jack Torrance. Not entirely unexpected, but not really welcome.
And there's one more thing. Something I didn't anticipate.
There's the onion.
I did a little shopping on the second day and bought some veggies to make a simple salsa. Roma tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno, and a red onion. I tried to throw them together so I'd have a healthy little snack while I was writing, but the knives in my apartment are horribly dull and I couldn't really chop very finely, and I don't have a blender or immersion mixer, and the veggies turned out to be not all that fresh. But I was still determined to eat it and not waste my money and time or deprive the veggies of fulfilling their life's purpose (to be eaten by me). Only now it feels like the bowl in my refrigerator is an evil, despicable force that would be more at home in Creepshow than my little purple apartment. The onion in the salsa has taken over everything. The smell permeates the entire room. If I open the refrigerator, even for a second, my eyes will be watering for the next twenty minutes. I can taste onion in the back of my mouth at all times. Even the ice cubes in the fucking freezer taste like onion! I don't know if this is part of me entering the darkness of my soul and finding just a gross, stinky onion or a manifestation of psychosis or if I'm about to have a seizure or if I just need to throw out the salsa. I did flee to the art studio at about 4 o'clock, and that seems to have stayed my insanity a little bit. But I can't sleep here. Eventually I have to return to my apartment and I have to deal with that shit.
I also hit my head on the low bathroom door about 16 times today, so it could have something to do with that.